We all have back catalogs. As the Lion King states: “There is more to see than can ever be seen and more to do than can ever be done,” and that is especially true when it comes to working your way through an ever-growing list of games that seem like they would be interesting to try. Hell, I still have stuff I wholeheartedly mean to play that I have intended to get to since the n64 was a new console. And with the advent of not only the new year but an entirely new decade nearly upon us, many of us gamers find our eyes wandering over to that indefinitely growing list of I-just-haven’t-gotten-to-them-yets with a multiplying sense of dread. But hey! Don’t give up just yet!
I have managed to break through and fall in love with a series that I long thought would always elude me. I want to share the things I have learned with you so, if you’ve got a moment and are, like me, pledging to whittle down your back catalog as one of your new year’s resolutions, then please, follow me on my journey into the Dark Souls series.
DETERMINE WHAT REALLY MATTERS TO YOU
There is a reason people like Marie Kondo have been getting so popular over the past few years, and it is because they are right. When it comes to almost anything, you have to pick and choose what is worth your time. I know it can be hard, and I know it can be intimidating, especially when your list of must plays starts to reach double or even triple digits, but you only have so much time to put towards playing games, even if it is literally your job. You will, eventually, run out of hours in the day. There will always be more good games coming out than you have time to play. So, when looking at your list, if the thought of picking up an input device and putting hours into it doesn’t bring you joy, it might be time to consider letting it go.
To give you an example and to bring this into the context of my personal journey, let’s talk about Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth. For those unfamiliar, this is a game that came out for the original Xbox and PC in 2005 and 2006, respectively. It’s a first-person narrative action game. There isn’t that much shooting or typical action; rather, you play a detective who, after seeing some unfathomable Lovecraft things, ends up going a little crazy and then spends seven years in an insane asylum. After you get out the mystery over what happened to you sends you to the creepy town of Innsmouth where fish monster shenanigans and eldritch abominations slowly creep in around the corners as you talk to the residents in an attempt to figure out what is going on with the town and with you. I liked it. I thought it was neat.
One day, a few years back, I was telling my friend about it. He looked at me sort of strangely and said, “You’re playing that game?” to which I responded, “Yeah, I think it’s pretty neat.” He just sort of looked away and said: “You’re ALWAYS playing that game.” We then moved on to other topics of conversation, but that one sentence stuck with me. It bothered me, but he was right. I had mentioned this game at several points over the past few years. I would always end up starting it, playing it for a few hours or even a day or two, and then I would get stuck at some annoying or frustrating part, and then I would quit and start the whole process over again the next time I picked it up. It was always fun for a bit but never entertaining enough to finish, and so, still a little sad about it, I decided to put it away.
TRY SOMETHING SIMILAR
Let’s say that you have figured out what game or series you want to get into, but something just isn’t clicking for you. You see what people are talking about with this game, but for whatever reason, it’s just not really talking to you. No problem! If it really matters to you and it is really for you, eventually, things might click. And, in the meantime, you can try something similar, something that might help you understand what exactly this thing people revere so much is all about and maybe even scratch a similar itch for you, something that the first thing you tried just couldn’t do.
For me, what ultimately did it was Bloodborne. This is a pretty standard story with the Souls series in particular, but the lesson is just as valuable with any property you are attempting to fathom. Bloodborne took a lot of the things that made the Souls games great and refined them while adding in its own great ideas. And just for me, personally, the whole horror movie vibe spoke to me in ways that Dark Souls (what I thought at the time, sorry) generic fantasy world never could.
If you too find yourself staring at something that you just can’t quite get as into as you would like, don’t give up! Try one of its sequels or a spin-off game, or, if neither of those exists just Google “games like X.” I know it sounds like a weird side door to try and stuff oneself through but often, especially with influential games there is something that has come out later which takes what made that game great and sands off some of the edges or presents those things in just a different enough way that it can be just what you need to get your foot in the door. And sometimes that is all you need; a little bit of familiarity and comfort with the way things work in order to get past the hump of “how do I play this game?!”
KEEP TRYING AND DON’T GIVE UP
Even after playing Bloodborne, it still took me a few years to get into Dark Souls proper. I would try and, using the knowledge I had gained of learning how to dodge and parry properly; I had a decent enough time… but never really a great time. I can’t really tell you why. Maybe Lordran just never pulled me in the way that Yharnam had. I would actually describe my experience with Dark Souls in a similar way to how I just talked about Dark Corners of the Earth. It wasn’t that the games weren’t fun, it was just that they never quite clicked with me.
My first experience with the series was actually pretty silly; my friend had gotten me a copy of Dark Souls 2 on PC years ago, and I was excited to try and play it; however, I didn’t really know what they were like their own separate type of game and for some reason thought that they would be most comparable to the PS2 era action-adventure games that I loved. So I reprogramed the controls so that the attack options would be on the face buttons rather than the shoulder buttons. And it didn’t go very well. At all. Looking back at that now, I am surprised by how far I managed to get with the nonsensical setup I was using. At that point, I shelved it.
I came back at some point after I experienced Bloodborne and enjoyed my time with it. But then something more immediately interesting to me came out, and I dropped it again. This happened several more times until just a few months ago. I was sitting around at home, not feeling too well, and not really sure what to do. I looked through my list of games and just decided, hey, Dark Souls, why not?
I decided to try it, but while listening to a podcast and, much to my surprise, that seemed to do the trick. Now, months later, I am completely fascinated with Dark Souls and have been taking my sweet time playing it and enjoying it, listening to podcasts most of the time, knowing that even after I finally complete this game I have all the rest of their previous and future titles to look forward too.
I realize that saying I shelved it might seem a bit antithetical to the entire point of the first section, but it’s really not. Sometimes we just aren’t ready for something. I thought Neon Genesis Evangelion was super overrated until I tried to watch it recently, at which point it became one of my favorite things ever. If something isn’t hitting you right, don’t be afraid to wait for a little and come back to it when you feel ready for it. Just pick and choose what is worth your time right now and set aside those things that just aren’t working. They’ll still be there if you decide they are worth coming back too.
Good luck out there everyone. If I have learned anything from my journey into the SekiroSoulsBorne series, it’s the same message that the game tries to teach you. Don’t give up. Keep trying. Figure out what is worth doing and reevaluate how you are trying to do it. And if what seems obvious isn’t working, consider trying something else. I hope this helps. Here is to a happy new year and an even better decade ahead. May you knock a couple of items off your back catalog as I have mine.